Headaches for the Holidays

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Does the holiday season make it more difficult to manage migraine headaches? Many migraineurs dread the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.  Between the flashing lights, heady colognes, migraine-triggering foods, and holiday expectations, it’s enough to turn anybody into a Grinch.

Headaches for the Holidays

Recently, the National Headache Society* asked, “What aspect of the holidays is hardest for you?” (See their Facebook page.)

Overwhelmingly, most replied that their holiday worries revolve around friends and family. Some feel that spending too much time with estranged family members is an unnecessary form of torture, while others wax nostalgic over holidays spent with mothers or fathers who have since passed on.

Not surprisingly, stress and other migraine triggers play a huge part during the months of November and December; more so than the rest of the year.

Here are some of the most popular responses to the NHS’s questions about migraine headaches during the holidays.

*Note: The National Headache Society has no affiliation with Migravent.

Holiday parties

While others are tripping the light fantastic, you may be stumbling over yourself just to get out of the room before your head explodes. Migraines make it difficult to be in a crowded room; add loud holiday music, mingling perfumes, food scents, and glaring fairy lights, and what you have is a recipe for the perfect storm.

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What is it about holiday parties that make life so unbearable for migraine sufferers?

  • Having to put on a happy face when I feel like screaming
  • Pretending I’m not suffering
  • Feeling guilty about turning down party invitations for fear of migraine attacks
  • Stress of hosting a party with a headache
  • Always being “on”
  • Not being able to rest in a dark room with an ice pack, for fear of being unsociable
  • New Year’s eve drinking


Most migraineurs responded that their migraine attacks have a strong impact on their family relationships, especially during the holiday season.

  • My martyr husband who steps in and heroically makes all the necessary preparations for the holidays- shopping, cooking, cleaning- without once complaining.
  • My in-laws are always amazed that I’ve “still got that headache,” months after our last visit.
  • Often, taking care of family members who are ill is a much harder task during this season.


An astonishing percentage of migraine sufferers also experience chronic depression. Feelings of loneliness and despair are magnified during these months, when it seems like everybody else is out having the perfect Dickensian Christmas, and you’re the odd one out.

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  • During family get-togethers, I excuse myself to sit in my room with an ice pack, while the party goes on without me.
  • I miss people more during this time of year.
  • Thanksgiving is often a reminder of special people who have moved away or died.

Stress and anxiety

Stress is the number one migraine trigger any time of the year. During the winter months, worries and anxieties seem to multiply.

  • I worry that I’ll get a migraine and won’t be able to enjoy my family visits.
  • I’m afraid I’ll mess up Thanksgiving dinner.
  • New Year’s just reminds me that I have nothing to look forward to expect another year of constant migraine headaches.

How many of these responses regarding migraine headaches during the holiday season can you identify with? Do you have any you would like to add? What’s your strategy for coping with migraines during the winter months?

Also read:

Are Migraines Really Triggered by Stress?

Managing your Mood with Migraines: 4 Simple Surefire Tips for Happiness

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